Sunday, October 07, 2012

How come no one told me how spectacular Season 2 of "Episodes" is? (Thanks, On Demand!)


"Okay, fine, I get it!" Matt tells Beverly (Tamsin Greig) and Sean (Stephen Mangan). "You're not supposed to screw your stalker!" (With luck, you may be able to view this brief clip here.)

by Ken

I know there's a new TV season settling in, but so far I seem to be handling my little corner of it and still found myself looking for new worlds to conquer, and in something close to desperation I clicked onto On Demand's offering of Episode 1 of Season 2 of the Showtime-BBC coproduction Episodes. I was astonished. I couldn't believe this was the same show whose first season I'd viewed with such guarded enthusiasm.

In case you're not familiar with the premise of the show, created and written by life partners David Crane (one of the Friends creators) and Jeffrey Klarik (a veteran of the Paul Reiser sitcom Mad About You): Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig play Sean and Beverly Lincoln, married British writers who are invited to come to Hollywood to write a U.S. adaptation of their successful Britcom about a beloved old teacher in a boys' school. It turns into a nightmare worse than anything they could have imagined, as they aging teen heartthrob Matt LeBlanc (the actor himself playing this imagined version of himself) forced on them as their wise old teacher.Eventually the character is transformed, a bit more plausibly, into a hockey coach, on a show now called Pucks, rigged out with perpetual ingénue Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe) as the original show's librarian, not to mention a crew of non-acting Hollywood-style lads as "the boys."

Season 1 wasn't awful. It just all played out pretty predictably, with the Brits coping very differently with the challenges of the assault on their nice little show and the mindless hedonism of the world in which they're now plunged. Sean, for all his sniffiness shows himself eminently temptable, but it's the Hollywood-phobic Beverly who winds up sleeping with Matt, delivering a devastating blow to Sean's ego. There were okay but unremarkable turns by John Pankow (Paul's cousin Ira on Mad About You) as Merc Lapidus, the network programming chief, and Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol, Merc's second in command and liaison to the real world -- and, oh yes, his mistress.

Season 2 begins with Sean and Beverly officially separated but still working together on a show that, improbably, seems quite possibly poised to succeed. It even has a strong premiere, followed by a steep plunge in its second week, as hordes of opening-episode watchers fail to return. But in Season 2 -- expanded from seven to nine episodes -- everything seems to me to work brilliantly. The thing is hilarious, with all the humor coming out of amazingly believably drawn characters and relationships, starting with Matt's complex relationships with each of the writers, but also including their relationships with everyone at the network and on the show.

The satire is somehow simultaneously sweetly low-key and savage. Carol, the network no. 2 gal, has become a riveting character, with a really terrific friendship in place with Beverly and total myopia about the hopelessness of her relationship with her boss. Matt tries desperately to repair his relationships with Sean and Beverly while coping with his understandably aggrieved ex-wife and his stalker. I don't know how to write about it in a way that doesn't make it sound dopey. I'm still stunned myself by how rivetingly believable and side-splitting I found almost every moment of all nine Season 2 episodes.

I'm thinking I may have to go back and look again at Season 1 to see whether there were things going on that I just hadn't tuned into yet. Meanwhile I see that Stephen Mangan has acknowledged publicly that there will be a Season 3. I'm going to have a tough time waiting.

Labels: ,


At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Lee said...


Speaking of Friends have you watched Web Therapy on Showtime? Lisa Kudrow developed it and produces it.I love the format and it's well written and very funny.

At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have the two leading actresses flipped. Tamsin is Carol.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, commenters!

(1) Lee, I think you have to be on a certain wave length for WEB THERAPY. The episodes i've watched, I responded to sort of the way I did to Season 1 of EPISODES -- kind of admiring it but not really enjoyingit that much. Obviously very subjective.

(2) Anon, I'm always prepared to believe I've performed a screw-up like that, but in this case, no, as far as I can tell I got it right:

Main cast
Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc
Stephen Mangan as Sean Lincoln
Tamsin Greig as Beverly Lincoln
John Pankow as Merc Lapidus
Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol Rance
Mircea Monroe as Morning Randolph

I actually did remember Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig appearing together in the quite watchable hospital comedy GREEN WING. Kathleen Rose Perkins, who plays Carol, is new to me (as far as I know), and extremely good -- quite wonderful in Season 2.

By the way, while checking this out:

(1) I found a nice Telegraph pre-Season 1 interview with series creators-writers David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik. I don't know why it didn't occur to me, but it turns out that the basic interface between Sean and Beverly is based -- sometimes pretty closely -- on DC and JK's personal and professional relationship.

(2) I discovered that there is indeed a Season 3 in the works. If it can sustain the level of Season 2, it should be a treat.



Post a Comment

<< Home